ELFY Edu-Pedia #1: Tinnitus


Unfortunately there are no studies providing the exact numbers in Malaysia. However in the US, it is estimated that approximately 50 million adults are affected, with 16 million reporting tinnitus as persistent and irritable.

Tinnitus is often described as ringing, hissing, or other types of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head when no external sound is present. Tinnitus can be temporary or permanent. It can also be just a brief tone heard in a quiet environment or constant, loud and unchanging noise throughout waking period.

It is NOT a disease but it is a symptom or sign indicating a medical health disorder (e.g. impacted ear wax, ear infection, sinusitis, hearing loss, loud noise exposure, etc.) or most of the time due to non-medical reason that eventually resolves (e.g. stress, silent environment, etc.).

No, tinnitus neither causes the loss of hearing nor interferes with hearing. However, tinnitus is usually associated with hearing loss. Hearing loss may make tinnitus seem worse because external sounds will no longer cover up the tinnitus.

It is a very common experience. Some researchers theorize that it may be due to the high activity of parts of the brain in a sleep state and/or the electrical and chemical changes of the brain during sleep that it doesn’t experience while awake. However, none of the theories have been proven so far.


Identify The Possible Causes Of Your Tinnitus

Developing tinnitus can be due to medical conditions and/or significant changes in physical, emotional state as well as your lifestyle.

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Evaluation by the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist and hearing tests done by an Audiologist can help to rule out the underlying medical causes (e.g. impacted ear wax, ear infection, sinusitis, disruption in blood vessel, nerve damage, ototoxicity drugs). Tinnitus sometimes can be managed by treating the underlying causes medically or surgically. People with hearing loss have higher possibilities to experience tinnitus.

Keep Track Of What Triggers Your Tinnitus And Avoid Them

Eliminate the things that aggravate tinnitus, for example certain nerve stimulants such as coffee and colas (caffeine); smoking or chewing tobacco (nicotine) or alcohol.

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Excessive use of certain medication like aspirin may worsen the tinnitus as well. Restriction in the intake of salty food may help to reduce the perception of tinnitus especially for those diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. Cotton swabs and metal picks usage to clean the ears may lead to the blockage of wax and perforation of ear drum and indirectly contribute to tinnitus.

Reduce Exposure To Loud Sounds

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Protect from further hearing deterioration by avoiding loud sounds exposure and using earmuffs or earplugs whenever operating heavy machinery, shooting or going to construction areas. Make sure you are not listening to music at high volume.

Examine Your Lifestyle

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Find ways to eliminate or reduce stress and get adequate rest. Stress, tiredness and insomnia always worsen tinnitus.

Identify Relief Situations

Tinnitus is usually more noticeable in quiet environment, just like the dim candle light which feels very bright in a dark room.

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However, by increasing the environmental sound carefully, such as turning on the fan or air conditioner, playing music or using sound generators like a sound pillow can reduce the contrast between your internal noise and the external world. It makes tinnitus less noticeable and for most of people, less troubling. Hearing impaired persons may benefit by using hearing aids to improve their hearing abilities and reduce tinnitus perception.

Change Negative Emotion And Behaviour

Our emotional centre (limbic system) is closely related to tinnitus perception.

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Person with tinnitus, most of the times, feels alarmed, upset and anxious, when they have sudden attack or persistent tinnitus perception. The negative emotional responses towards tinnitus created by our limbic system will alert our conscious brain (cortex) to pay attention to tinnitus. Steps 2 to 5 are important steps in reducing tinnitus perception and tinnitus reaction until it is no longer a controlling factor in the person’s life, this will eventually reduce the negative emotions associated with tinnitus.

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